Staunton, March 10 – Benedict Anderson’s definition of the nation as “an imagined community” contains within itself the explanation for why Vladimir Putin’s call for the creation of a civic Russian nation could not happen and why, if it did, its first act would be to do away with the political system the Kremlin leader has created, according to Igor Yakovenko.
It is important to recognize this reality, the commentator says, because this is far from the first order Putin has given that no one has carried out. Some, like his call for an end to corruption, are unthinkable; but others like this one reflect his failure to understand he personally has made them impossible (7days.us/igor-yakovenko-rossijskaya-naciya-missiya-nevypolnima/).
The problem is that what Putin and his supporters imagine in a Russian nation is not what others do and that, “having destructed all institutions of democracy … Putin has liquidated any possibility of creating out of the population of Russia a political nation.” It is now united “only by television and by the messages Putin sends over that medium.
A quarter of all Russians live in apartments that are not connected to the water supply and 30 percent of them aren’t connected to sewers, but “every urban household has on average 1.6 televisions;” and the figure in rural areas is only slightly lower, 1.3 TVs. These provide “round the clock distribution of lies” which keep people divided.
Russian nationalists can’t imagine a Russian nation including “anyone except Russians;” and non-Russians fear exactly that. A Levada Center poll last fall provides evidence for this: 52 percent of those polled support the slogan “Russia for the ethnic Russians,” and only 21 percent are offended by it.
Moreover, Russians don’t sympathize or identify with many non-Russians. Thirty-four percent want to limit the rights of people from the Caucasus to live in Russian cities, 29 percent have the same attitude about Central Asians, “21 percent don’t want to live in one country with Roma, 13 percent don’t want to live in one with Ukrainians, six percent don’t want to live in one with Jews.”
Indeed, Yakovenko points out, the poll show that “18 percent of those polled are in general convinced that only ethnic Russians should live in Russia.”
Of course, Russia is far from the only country where xenophobia is widespread. Most countries are poly-ethnic and most suffer from xenophobia of one kind or another. They each address it in their own ways. “In dictatorships of a totalitarian state, by force, fear and propaganda.”
“The foundation of Hitler’s nationality policy were the Nuremberg laws, the most important of which was “the law on imperial citizenship” adopted on September 15, 1935. According to Yakovenko, Hitler viewed this law as of fundamental importance because in his view “the nucleus of the national-socialist doctrine was not the state but the Volk.”
“’The Soviet people,’” which existed in Soviet times and was backed by the power of the state as “’a new historical community of people’ survived as long as the Soviet empire did and then died at the moment of its death, the Russian commentator says. The situation in democratic countries is different.
There, the civic nation is held together by “a sense of being part of the formation of power and by the rules of living together: Elections, referenda, the possibility ot influence the authorities via civil society – all this transforms the population into citizens who take part in the realization of a common political and civic project.”
Putin has destroyed all those things, and he must now face the fact that “it is impossible to create a political nation by decree or law.” Were one to arise in any event, the Kremlin leader would be anything but pleased because a genuine civic nation, one conscious of its rights and powers, wouldn’t want anything to do with him.
Its first task would be his ouster and together with that the destruction of his regime. Then, Yakovenko says, “it would begin to build a normal country,” one in which there would be a shared identity and shared sense of power and control.”